Tender, flavor packed beef that's perfect for tacos, burritos, nachos and more, all made in a fraction of the time. Learn how to make Instant Pot Barbacoa with this easy to follow recipe!
What is Instant Pot Barbacoa?
Beef chunks are stewed in a super flavorful sauce, packed with Mexican style peppers to give you maximum full flavor. Not as spicy as it is flavorful, we flavor this with traditional flavors such as cumin, chili powder and lime. Add in some garlic and adobo sauce for a smokey note and you'll get a deep bit that's super juicy.
Traditionally, Barbacoa is slow cooked over an open flame. In central Mexico, it's common to cook it in a brick lined oven dug into the ground low and very slow. But with the Instant Pot (affiliate), we can get our meat from tough to tender in a fraction of the time.
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Why you'll love it
Once you get past the couple of steps at the beginning - both of which are pretty easy - this is very much a set it and forget it recipe. Blend together your sauce, sear your meat, than throw everything in your Instant Pot and let the pressure cooker work it's magic.
Come back a little over an hour later and you'll have super tender meat that's ready for dinner. Food that gets better without you even having to be in the kitchen? Sign me up, that's exactly what we get with this Instant Pot Barbacoa.
Mike's Recipe Rundown
- Taste: The beef really shines through here, but with a ton of smoky and deep flavors. Natural flavors from cumin, garlic cloves and fresh oregano balance nicely against the spice and smokiness from the adobo sauce.
- Texture: Small chunks of tender meat, pulled apart lightly. I don't over-pull mine, as I don't like it extra stringy. Pulling into small chunks is what I go for. If you're serving this over rice, spoon up some of the extra sauce to soak into the rice. If going on a taco, burrito bowl or nachos, use a slotted spoon and leave some of that sauce behind.
- Difficulty - Pretty easy! Three steps, that's it! If you can flip a switch on a blender (affiliate) and set a timer, this one could not be easier.
- Pros: An awesome take on taco night that can be used several different ways. Such a great step up from standard seasoned ground beef.
- Cons: While this is way shorter than a slow cooker recipe or an oven braise, it does take time to make barbacoa. The good news is most of that time it's just cooking on it's own in the Instant Pot, so the actual time you have to do stuff is very little.
- Would I make it again? For sure! This is one of my favorite meats to make for taco night, no matter what I'm making. I love to make big batches and freeze the extras. They're easy to unthaw, heat and make more Mexican food at the drop of a hat.
- Buying tip: The leaner the meat, the better. That's why I opt for the flat cut of a beef brisket, which is usually available in the meat section of my grocery store. If not, I'll usually opt for a lean cut of chuck roast. The flavor here will be picked up by the sauce it's cooked in, not fat.
- Blending tip: We call for mixing the ingredients for your sauce in a food processor (affiliate), but a blender (affiliate) works just as well.
- Prep tip: A lot of recipes for this tell you to cut your meat into very large chunks. I prefer mine about 2 inches thick. This makes them long enough to get nice and tender, but small enough to not give you super long strings.
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- 1 11oz can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. We're just going to use the sauce from here and strain out the peppers and seeds (where most of the heat lives).
- ½ large red onion, roughly chopped. This will get run through the food processor, so it just needs to be small enough to easily fit in the processor.
- 3 garlic cloves. Lightly smash each cloves, peel and leave whole. The food processor will cut it up.
- 1 tsp fresh oregano, with the leaves pulled from the stem. The fresher the better, especially if you are able to grow your own.
- 1 tsp ground cumin. If you really want to step your game up, toast cumin seeds and grind them yourself.
- 1 lime, juiced.
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup beef broth
- 3 lb beef brisket or chuck roast, cut into 2 inch chunks. As I said above, the leaner, the better.
How to use an Instant Pot
Before you start this recipe, make sure you are familiar with the instructions and safety manual for your model of Instant Pot (or other pressure cooker). Instant Pot itself offers a nice set of videos on How to use an Instant Pot.
While pressure cookers are awesome tools, they have to be used correctly. Take the time to be familiar with how to use yours before you begin to avoid injury and give you the tastiest results.
Allow about 1 hour and 30 minutes from beginning to end. This includes about 5 minutes to make the sauce in the food processor or blender, the time it takes the Instant Pot to come up to pressure, cook for 45 minutes, and release, plus a few minutes to shred the beef and broil it in the oven.
This recipe calls for 3 pounds of brisket, which is enough to feed about 9-12 people. Brisket is usually sold in at least this size, so that's our starting point. If you're feeding a larger crowd for a party, you can scale the recipe up using the recipe card below.
Remember, you can always freeze the leftovers, thaw them in the fridge and heat them up to use later.
Slow Cooker Option
If you don't have an Instant Pot, you can make this in a crock pot (affiliate) as well. Complete Steps 1 and 3 below as is. For step 2, instead of adding it to the Instant Pot, place it in a slow cooker on low for 8 hours.
Step 1: Run chipotle peppers in adobo sauce through a mesh strainer (affiliate) into a food processor, getting as much sauce through as possible. Discard peppers. Add red onion, garlic cloves, fresh oregano, ground cumin, lime, salt, apple cider vinegar and beef broth. Turn processor on and run until smooth, about 15 seconds.
Step 2: Add cut beef brisket to Instant Pot. Pour over the sauce from the food processor. Close lid on Instant Pot and set vent to sealing. Set Instant Pot to Manual: High pressure for 45 minutes.
Step 3: When timer goes off, allow about 15 minutes for a full, natural release. When pressure has fully released, open lid and transfer beef to a large mixing bowl (affiliate). Shred with forks into large chunks, then pour onto a large baking sheet (affiliate). Broil beef on high for about 5 minutes, until beef begins to crisp slightly.
Serve immediately or return to Instant Pot to keep warm until ready.
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Instant Pot Barbacoa Recipe
- Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
- Yield: 8 servings 1x
Traditional mexican beef made quickly and easily in the Instant Pot!
- 1 11oz can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
- ½ large red onion, roughly chopped
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 tsp fresh oregano
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- ½ tsp ground cloves
- 1 lime, juiced
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup beef broth
- 3 lb beef brisket or chuck roast, cut into 2 inch chunks
- 1 Tbsp coarse kosher salt
- Using a mesh strainer, open can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce and strain adobo sauce into food processor. Press peppers against strainer to get the most sauce out. From there, add red onion, garlic cloves, fresh oregano, ground cumin, ground cloves, lime, apple cider vinegar and beef broth. Turn processor on and run until smooth, about 15 seconds.
- Pour mixture into Instant Pot. Add beef brisket. Close lid on Instant Pot and set vent to sealing. Set Instant Pot to Manual: High pressure for 45 minutes.
- When timer goes off, allow about 15 minutes for a full, natural release. Open lid and remove beef to a large mixing bowl. Shred using forks into small chunks. Pour beef onto a large baking sheet, and place in oven under broiler for 5 minutes, until beef just begins to crisp. Remove and serve immediately in a taco, nachos, or spooned over white rice.
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Cook Time: 85 minutes
- Category: Main Course
- Method: Instant Pot
- Cuisine: Mexican
Keywords: Instant Pot Barbacoa, Easy Taco Recipes, Easy Barbacoa